10 Camcorder Roundup

Sony HDR-UX3

If we're not careful we'll easily confuse the Sony DCR-DVD406 for the HDR-UX3, because they are so similar in appearance. However, the HD marked on the cover of the LCD screen leaves no doubt, the HDR-UX3 is a high definition DVD camcorder.


Like all camcorders in the DVD series, the HDR-UX3 is "big" and you will have trouble fitting it into a big pocket. The design is classic, but Sony didn’t really try to attract us with appearances, but rather its HD performance. The interface is also classic with a LCD screen, serving as virtual control tower. Menus are very intuitive, but access to functions isn’t really direct. So, the UX3 is more for use in complete automatic mode. Compared to the UX1, the former HD model, there are few modifications. The screen is smaller, but the shutter can now reach 1/2 and this model has an interesting NightShot mode. The HDR-UX3 still records sound in 5.1 surround, but here Sony still doesn’t want to offer audio input or headphone jack. Finally, it’s unfortunate that there is no true optical stabilization and instead we have an electronic system, which gives us the occasional jump in images.

Image quality

Of all HD camcorders that we‘ve seen (up until the date of this test), the HDR-UX3 offers the best image quality. It’s very precise and its high contrast reinforces sharpness. In the end, on a Full HD screen, images are shiny with very saturated colors. They appear rather "artificial" but are quite nice for non-professional use (the UX3 undoubtedly fits in this category). White balance is rather cold and results in well contrasted images. The HDR-UX3 was quite sensitive to capturing our Barbie doll in the dark, but didn’t display any colors, and electronic noise was rather noticeable. Despite the inscription on the camcorder, the photo mode isn’t really a true 4 megapixel, because the sensor only has 2 million pixels. The 4 mega pixels is attained by a simple interpolation and results aren’t up to par with claims. The advantage of DVD support is that you can record in MPEG-2 in standard definition. The DVD is then directly playable on a home DVD player. In HD, things are much more complicated. You will need a Blu-Ray player to read DVDs recorded with the UX3. SD mode (standard definition), gives provides a very good image quality.


Sony HDR-UX3
  • Nice image quality
  • 5.1 surround sound
  • Records in SD and HD
  • No optical stabilization
  • No very many manual adjustments
  • Noise in low light

The main interest of the HDR-UX3 is its easy combination of classic DVD and HD DVD. The (significant) investment is therefore somewhat justified, because you can also film in HD with an excellent image quality.

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  • Anonymous
    It's a troubling trend that nearly all consumer/prosumer camcorders are ditching the EVF in favor of the LCD, which is useless outdoors. I really liked the Canons, given their feature set and quality, but the lack of EVF was killer (the only model with EVF was the HG21, and that was impossible to find), and so I got a Sony SR12 instead. Great features are useless if you can't see what you're filming, unless you're doing all your work indoors.
  • g-thor
    I am only part way through the article, but I have to say that comparing the Vado (about $100) with even the Canon DC210 (about $400) just doesn't wash. If you had at least mentioned the price disparity, it might have been acceptable, but the Vado isn't aimed at the same market. Plus, the VADO HD is available, yet the article says, "but we're still waiting for the HD version of the Vado."

    For me, this weakens the journalism and therefore weakens the reviews in general. It makes me wonder, did you really do due diligence in the review. Maybe your article lead time is too long, but that's where an editor can add notes, like, The Vado HD was released just after this review was completed.

    Just my two cents worth.
  • michaelahess
    I'll stick with my Canon HG10, EVF , 40GB HD, hotshoe, Mic input, perfect HD image....None of these compare.
  • flemlion
    At first I thought this was an old article that had slipt through RSS a second time, but no it was recent.

    The reason is because I would not know for any reason to still review the Panasonic HDC-SD1. It's multiple generations old and you might be hard pressed to even find it. The four generations younger HDC-SD9 would be a lot better candidate even if it is not the latest generation, but it is still a reference with regards to value for money.
  • bladefist
    I haven't red it entirely, buy giving a '+' for a microphone (7.Panasonic HDC-SD1) is (imho) a joke. You can give a minus for no-audio recording, but giving a plus for a microphone is just too much!
    2) You give a minus to Sony HDR-UX3 for lacking Image Stabilisation, and how about Sony HDR-SR11E - does it have IS or doesn't? JVC GZ-HD40 for example got a minus for medicore IS ...

    I'd rewrite this article ... to some exent ..
  • Anonymous
    Panasonic HDC-SD1 is too old. There were SD5, SD9, and now SD100. The last one is a way better than SD9. So, what is the need to review HDC-SD1?